NAB Stands Exposed In
Dr. Arsalan's Case
by TARIQ BUTT
The probe into the unseemly financial dealing between property mogul and owner of the Bahria Town Malik Riaz Hussain and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's son Dr Arsalan by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) led by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is heading towards nowhere as it is mired in deep controversy, inspiring no confidence or credibility. Accusing fingers started to be raised at the JIT the moment it was constituted, but ironically the team especially the NAB, is hell-bent to go ahead with the investigation. Dr Arsalan has expressed total lack of trust in the JIT and dubbed it as biased and prejudiced against him. He charges that the team is composed of favourites and beneficiaries of Malik Riaz's largesse and the haters of the chief justice for his heroic stand for independent judiciary. Through his lawyer, Arsalan has written two letters to NAB Chairman Adm. (retd) Fasih Bokhari and complains that he has got reply to none. He has given a graphic detail of how each and every member of the JIT is a recipient of the Bahria Town's generosity and how everyone of them has been anti-Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. As his pleas fell on deaf ears, Arsalan has gone to the Supreme Court, whining that the JIT has been picked up to frame him in the case and disentangle Malik Riaz. At the same time, he has appeared before the JIT, recorded his protest and handed it over his written statement, denying all the charges leveled against him by the real estate magnate. While Malik Riaz and Arsalan have joined the investigation, the Bahria Town owner's son-in-law British Pakistani Salman Ali, who is a central character in this money matter, has not showed up before the JIT, but he does plan to depose before it.
Intriguingly, the NAB has kept the names of the members of the JIT under wraps for reasons best known to it alone. Generally, identity of such investigators should not be considered a "state secret" to ensure transparency. It is essential to see and analyze the past and character of such people. They have to be above board. In all its press statements and interactions with the media persons, the NAB has stubbornly refused to disclose their names. The only apparent reason is that it fears very negative public reaction because all the members of the JIT are closely linked to Malik Riaz in one way or the other and are the handpicked personnel of his best friend, Interior Minister A. Rehman Malik. The JIT is headed by Kausar Iqbal Malik, Director General, Financial Crimes, NAB, who has two houses in Bahria Town Rawalpindi and had been living there. The team includes another two NAB officials, whose arms could be easily twisted by their bosses to follow the script. Topping all of them is the NAB chairman himself, whose camaraderie with the Bahria Town proprietor is no secret. Even there are confirmed reports that his appointment to this office was made by President Asif Ali Zardari on Malik Riaz's recommendation. Then, the JIT also has a Superintendent of Police (SP) of Islamabad (Faisal Memon), whose closeness to Malik Riaz is known to a number of even relatively less informed people in the federal capital. The interior minister has inducted two officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of his choice in the JIT.
So, if Dr Arsalan is loudly protesting against the JIT composition and is demanding probe by an honest judge he has valid reasons. He says heads of various components of the present investigative state machinery are have tainted past and their own axe to grind against the superior judiciary. He has challenged Attorney General Irfan Qadir's letter to the NAB to form the present JIT and noted down his objections to the JIT in his review petition against the June 14 ruling of a two-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Jawad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain in which it expected from the attorney general to set the state machinery in motion so that all those including Malik Riaz, Dr Arsalan, Salman Ali Khan etc., who may have committed any illegal acts were pursued and brought to book with full force and rigour of the law. Then, the JIT working under the NAB's umbrella has made no effort to prove that it is not biased against Dr Arsalan and is not anti-judiciary especially the chief justice. It has needlessly summoned Supreme Court Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain to question him on his presence in certain meetings of Malik Riaz with (deposed) Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. This is of course a deliberate attempt to malign the chief justice and put him under pressure to relent on the cases against President Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and other top government leaders. The NAB is simply working as a tool in the hands of the federal government which it is using the way it likes.
On the other hand, the attorney general opines that he wrote the letter to the NAB seeking investigation in the scandal in pursuance of the Supreme Court order, and suggests that anybody objecting to it should read the order of the two-member bench. It is now for the NAB to deal with the case and he has nothing to do with it. There is no need for him to remain in touch with the NAB. He has not given any time-frame to the NAB to complete its probe and it is for the NAB to conclude the investigation as early as possible, he says.
The court order had said that such exchange of bribes with the attempt, even a failed one, to influence the course of justice, has been declared illegal and punishable under various laws. If proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, the parties involved are liable to be punished under laws, which may include section 163 (illegal gratification using personal influence over public servant), section 383 (extortion) section 415 and section 420 (cheating), of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and section 9 of the NAB Ordinance. "We need not delve deeply into the contours of these various legal provisions or determine the manner of their applicability to the present facts. That is a job best left to investigating agencies and the trial court, to be decided on the basis of evidence. All we need to do here is to highlight the underlying spirit of these laws, which, in essence, is the timeless wisdom encapsulated in the prophetic saying: The one who gives bribes as well as the one who takes bribes are doomed to hell fire. The people of Pakistan, who have chosen to be governed by a government of laws, are entitled to see a temporal manifestation of this principle."
If the NAB is dancing to the tunes set by the government to settle scores with all of its tormentors (particularly the superior judiciary), Dr Arsalan is working hard to get relief from the complicated legal processes. The pace the JIT has so far adopted to investigate this unique case clearly shows that it is not going to close in the near future. No doubt, the government seems poised to drag the closest female members of the chief justice's family in the case to avenge its unending humiliation in the Supreme Court, the highest judicial forum is going to intervene decisively when it will feel that such an attempt has been made. In the meantime, the NAB is discreetly running the media campaign in this case to hit its target – the chief justice. For example, it fed the information, which was splashed in newspapers, that the NAB has collected evidence from foreign countries about the shopping, hotel stay etc of Dr Arsalan and others (read wife and daughter of the chief justice) accompanying him. It also announced that it has hired international experts for a helping hand in the probe. While Dr Arsalan is worried and concerned over the bias of the NAB, Malik Riaz is absolutely calm and composed as he has no worry from any arm of the executive, but is scared from the superior judiciary for its obvious actions against him for his dubious doings.